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Feb 4

Fallen Angels #6 annotations

Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

PAGE 1 / COVER. The cast pose dramatically.

PAGES 2-3. Recap and credits. This is just titled “Conclusion”, and it’s by Bryan Hill, Szymon Kudranski and Frank D’Armata. It’s the final issue of the series.

PAGE 4. Psylocke has a moment of self-doubt before fighting Apoth.

Psylocke thinks that she’s some sort of avatar of death and that she’s playing the role of hero that was left behind for her by Betsy. The first panel seems to be purely symbolic. The second is probably meant to be Kwannon with the father of her child, given the similar panel on page 9 – though it’s hard to tell and the blank facial expressions don’t help much. The third is her abusive teacher. The remaining panels focus on her internal division, which is probably meant to be paralleled in Apoth.

PAGES 5-11. In Dubai, the Fallen Angels fight people under Apoth’s control, while Psylocke goes off to fight Apoth.

Despite Psylocke being the clear focal character of this series, it’s X-23 who takes the lead with the team, presumably because they know her better, and she’s more experienced at teamwork. Psylocke seems to see this as confirmation that she doesn’t quite fit in here.

Psylocke uses telekinetic wings to fly up to reach Apoth (don’t ask me how that works), which goes back to the butterfly imagery that’s appeared throughout this series. We’re probably meant to take it that this is Psylocke transcending the voices in her head by rising to the occasion and confronting Apoth. Page 9 panel 2 seems to be another flashback to young Kwannon and the father of her child, a memory that she’s returning to as a focal point to resist her brainwashing.

PAGES 12-20. Psylocke confronts Apoth using the device that Sinister gave her.

Apparently the wraith figure that Cable encountered in previous issues is Apoth, or at least one aspect of him. The “good” glowing figure that Psylocke encountered is the other side of him, or at least an adversary figure created by Apoth to fulfil his pseudo-mythological role. Ultimately, Apoth seems to adopt the form of Psylocke’s child for their psychic battle, and begs her to stop, though it’s ambiguous whether Apoth is genuinely trying to surrender (viewing Psylocke as his “mother”) or trying to psyche her out. Either way, Psylocke seemingly kills him, though a later scene indicates that Apoth is actually trapped within Sinister’s device. The “good” side of Apoth apparently just survives and presumably wanders off somewhere.

PAGE 21. Psylocke and X-23 talk on Krakoa.

X-23 wants to keep the team together, but Psylocke doesn’t want to, since she realises that her only skill as a team leader would be to turn the team into broken people like her. This feels awfully like a last-minute change of plan.

PAGE 22. Psylocke delivers Apoth to Mr Sinister.

Apoth has apparently survived as a prisoner within Sinister’s device, and Sinister decides to keep him. He’ll probably be significant in some future storyline relating to posthumanity and technology.

PAGE 23. Events have shown Psylocke that she can be a hero.

Speaks for itself.

PAGES 24-25. Data pages. The second is just Psylocke promising to make people butterflies like her, which (in the context of the series) is ambiguous about whether it means her as a broken figure, or her as the transcendent hero.

The first page is indeed an extended quotation from the Japanese Noh play “Atsumori”, written by Zeami Motokiyo (c1363-c1443). Hill seems to be using the English translated text found on this page, which describes it as recounting a duel between two warriors, and “meditat[ing] on the dilemma between the violence of maintaining order and the senselessness often resulting from fatality.” The passage shown here is the climax.

More precisely, “Atsumori” tells the story of Taira no Atsumori, an inexperienced teenage samurai who got himself killed by the older warrior Kamugai after being left behind at the Battle of Ichi-no-Tani in 1184. As I understand it, the basic tragedy is meant to be that although Atsumori was nominally a samurai, he was really just a callow poet who had no real business being on a battlefield in the first place, while Kamugai was so upset about killing a boy who reminded him of his own son that he quit fighting and became a monk. So it’s a story about senseless death resulting from fixed roles (and, in Kamugai’s case, the rejection of those roles).

This translation is by Royall Tyler (born 1936), and renders the Japanese into iambic pentameter. Unfortunately, the version which has been used here not only omits the stage directions, but also omits the markers that tell you who’s speaking, which makes it a bit confusing. “Atsumori” and “I” are the same character – the speech is meant to be shared between Atsumori’s ghost and the chorus. Also, the word “Kumagai” in the third last line shouldn’t be there – it seems to have been inserted into the source quote to explain who the word “Rensho” referred to. You can check that against other versions of the translation… or you could just notice that it messes up the iambic pentameter.

PAGES 26-27. The reading order and the trailers. Of course, there is no next issue; the trailer page instead reads “NEXT: HELLIONS”, which presumably picks up on the Psylocke/Sinister subplot.

Bring on the comments

  1. Col_Fury says:

    Five issues to assemble a team, and then it’s disbanded in the sixth. Yeah, I don’t think this series was planned to end this early. Or, the pacing choices were… not the best?

    Looking at the sales charts, Fallen Angels wasn’t doing terrible but it was trending to be the lowest seller. X-Men’s doing the best (December’s issue was still over 100,000, but I’m sure that has more to do with variant covers and whatnot), everything else was between 45,000 to 50,000, and Fallen Angels was around 37,000. In today’s market that’s not bad!

    So either this was always going to be six issues and just not advertised that way, or Marvel saw the trend and pulled it early. Who knows?

    All of that typing and I’ve said nothing about the story. Well, this book wasn’t hitting my buttons, I guess.

  2. Alan L says:

    This book was pretty terrible from the get-go, but this last issue drops the balls it’s juggling. Apoth remains completely generic. The case could be made that Kwannon remains completely generic as well. In this final issue all her decisions about herself and her changing goals are prompted by nothing at all.

    But the thing that annoyed me the most was that the team behind Kwannon had nothing to do. They exchanged banal dialogue in the battle scene, all wearing weird, featureless black bodysuits that made them all indistinguishable from one another. Nothing they did seemed to have any impact on what Kwannon was doing––after all, once she decided to fly to face Apoth, it’s not like the minions on the ground could have done anything much to stop her. But the Fallen Angels team is there to take on those minions, all the same. They have no impact. Did they win the battle? Lose it? At a certain point the action became so muddled it was unclear what was supposed to be happening and who was doing what. Combined with the way the final battle felt so hurried and contrived, I think this series will have zero impact on the X-men’s forward trajectory.

  3. CJ says:

    Ironically, separating Betsy from Kwannon now, decades later, will probably only do _more_ to define Kwannon in terms of Betsy.

    “Betsy? Oh, you mean the telepath…sexy ninja…was with Archangel…interesting story in Uncanny X-Force? Oh yeah, she’s over in Excalibur now.”

    “Kwannon? Um…some early 90s X-Men story…um…Fallen Angels? Kinda generic I guess? But hey her body featured in some interesting stories long before that!”

    It probably would have been a better idea, if you want to separate them, to have done it when Jamie resurrected her back in the UXM #450s. Resurrection into Kwannon’s body in that story cemented for me that that’s who Betsy _is_, and this arc has, on the other hand, only illustrated that Kwannon doesn’t have much of an interesting character.

  4. Fallen Angels, followed by Hellions? What next, X-Terminators? Looks like Marvel is re-establishing some copyrights.

  5. Taibak says:

    CJ: I think that was originally the plan, actually. I read somewhere that Claremont killed her off planning to use her resurrection to strip away some of the needlessly overcomplicated parts of the character. If I remember right, he was going to take away her Crimson Dawn powers, but I can’t remember if she was going to go back into her original body or not.

    Either way, Joe Quesada was still pushing “dead means dead” so it didn’t happen.

  6. Mikey says:

    Wow, this book was dreadful.

  7. Dazzler says:

    Books hovering around 45-50K during the first arc of such a splashy relaunch doesn’t sound very promising to me, especially with the glut of variant covers. Not bad numbers, but they don’t remotely justify the scope of this retcon.

    Also, my LCS had only two copies of X4 on the shelves, suggesting they’ve very dramatically adjusted their ordering habits, likely scaling their orders back too much. Not that I can blame them.

  8. JCG says:

    The new x-books are still at the top of the Comixology sales charts at least.

    Probably a more significant data point than a single LCS.

  9. Chris says:

    I was enjoying this book at first and thought it had potential to be an interesting regular series until I found out the author was leaving to do his “real job” of working on TV or whatever, then they were clearly just wrapping things up to set up Hellions. Disappointing, but I’ll take whatever Psylocke centered stories I can get I guess.

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